There is a growing sense that winter is on the wane and spring is just around the corner.
Early seasons flowers are starting to appear (don’t ask me what they are called – but they are colourful and pretty!), the sun streams in my office window with just a smidge more warmth than the last few months and days are lengthening steadily.
I’m sure the last vestiges of winter are yet to vanish, and we’ll have some bleak and cold days yet….but they signs are there that the days of winter are numbered, and ahead lies the glory of spring.
In Tasmania, we’ve learned that the seasons impact on more than just the plant life.
One of the surprising discoveries of 2008 for us as newcomers to the island was the way in which people go almost into hibernation during the cool, wet months of winter. Social activities are diminished, community events are almost non-existent and people tend to retreat into their cocoons.
But come September or October and all that changes. There is a rapid re-emergence, a re-engagement in the activities that generate community that seems so at odds with the life of the past few months. It’s almost as if people are trying hard to make up for the lost weeks of isolation. People too, feel the frosts, the rain and the bleakness of winter and are itching for the spring to come.
The coming of spring raises lots of questions for me. Firstly, in this specifically Tasmanian environment, what is the impact of the seasons on communities of faith? Some communities literally lose people for weeks or months at a time who have flown north for the winter. Some struggle with inconsistent participation on days when it’s just more comfortable to stay home in the warmth than to venture out. All of us are impacted by the short days, rain in the air, and sodden ground that is characteristic of winter. If we are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for those who cannot care for themselves, how much more in winter is that a fundamentally important call?
And then I get to thinking….are we in the church stuck in our own winter? Are we in a time where life is just holding on? Are we so consumed by resisting the frosts that we have no capacity to send out new growth? Are we so pressured at this point in our own lives that we’re forced to drop all our leaves like deciduous trees until the warmth of winter awakens us? From where will that warmth come? What might the signs be of an imminent emergence into spring time?
Or did God perhaps intend for the church to be evergreen? Vibrant and strong throughout the seasons of life? I wonder if that might be the case. Strength in our lives, in our existence as communities of faith, and capacity to resist the struggles and challenges might just come by being on the front foot – by saying “no matter the season, we will continue to invest our energies in fostering new growth”.
It is perhaps a little naive of me to think that there are not seasons in the life of any community – of course there are – but there is always the possibility that rather than sit quietly, struggling to survive until spring meekly pokes its nose around the corner, we might just be able to drag ourselves into a springtime of our own making with attitude, commitment, energy and passion.
Is this perhaps the essence of the missional church? Is it time to herald the arrival of a new day?